dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

Why do people say 'after dark' when what they mean is 'during dark'? After dark would be when it's light again, right? * There are 10 types of people in this world -- those who read binary, and those who don't. * I'm rethinking the whole brown rice thing. What if it's just more white liberal self-hatred? Whole wheat, honey, unbleached flour. All better. Sez who? * Eugene should be HQ for White People for Diversity. We'll fight for diversity to be included in books, which is where we know to look for it. * Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but give a man a pillow, and he'll dream of steak. * What can you say about a state that puts the town of North Bend 225 miles southwest of Bend? We rely on visitors for entertainment.

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Food Trucks Need Room to Roll

June 24th, 2016 · 1 Comment

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Misfortune blazed a path to redemption last weekend, but there’s more that can be done. Eugene Mission executive director Jack Tripp didn’t say that, but he could have. His organization is well on its way to replacing its burned-out kitchen, thanks to a very successful fundraiser.

Twenty-eight food trucks convened in the Valley River Center parking lot last Saturday for a Food Truck Fest. Once word got out that ten percent of all proceeds would be donated to Eugene Mission’s sudden need, the event drew an overwhelming response.

Eugene loves its food trucks, in spite of the city’s public policy. If you wonder what’s so bad about Eugene’s food truck policy, it’s that it doesn’t have one. Eugene has an ice cream truck policy, reminiscent of the 1960s’ Good Humor man. Food trucks are not allowed to park or stop on Eugene’s public roads for more than a few minutes at a time.

Eugene city staff convened a meeting with food truck advocates to explore how policies could be updated to support this burgeoning business sector, but no changes have yet been made. That meeting was almost three years ago.

Food truckers are nothing if not adaptive, so they’ve learned to make do. They pull their vehicles off public property and into private lots. Property owners usually charge modest rents to the truck operators.

Once they find a spot that works for them, they tend to keep to a regular schedule, hoping to build a loyal following of repeat customers. The wheels under their trucks hardly matter. They guard their space, even if it’s only the pavement beneath them. They pay rent.

There’s nothing wrong with the current configuration and hardly anyone is complaining. But it could be much better. Here’s how.

Food trucks should be allowed to park just like any other car or truck, so long as it doesn’t endanger their customers or other motorists. Springfield has already begun loosening its rules, but Eugene can do more. Only then will the inventive spirit of these creative entrepreneurs be fully revealed.

If we can restripe Willamette Street to see how drivers adapt, we can allow our roving restaurants to rove. At the very least, it’s another experiment worth trying.

Anyone with a kitchen that needs a good cleaning can tell you that cooking and creativity go naturally together. Most restaurant chefs are constantly tinkering, but often it’s only their family or their closing-time employees who experience those experiments.

Our street food would become more inventive if we allowed our chefs to use our streets.

Cafe Yumm’s signature sauce was a concoction that Mary Anne Beauchamp made for her own lunch when she had a small cafe inside Friendly Street Market. The original owner of Pegasus Pizza told me he developed a good barbecue chicken pizza after Dumpster-diving around campus and finding mostly pizza boxes and chicken bones. Where but in Eugene could two brothers build a small empire on their love of waffles?

What crazy ideas would be suddenly worth trying if its creator’s incremental investment was the cost of plugging a parking meter? All the risk would go into the recipes. Failure would be no big deal. Try again tomorrow on another street corner.

Every day would bring us new choices in new places. Think of it as the opposite of a road diet.

Imagine a Wavy Gravy comfort food truck parked outside the MacDonald Theatre after a Grateful Dead tribute band concert. Or a truck selling green and yellow shaved ice after a Duck game. Or a pizza truck outside an Oregon Bach Festival tribute to Italian influences. If we allow it, they will concoct it.

Isn’t this the sort of risk-taking Eugene wants to encourage?

In four hours, 28 food trucks attracted approximately 13 thousand people, raising $45,000 for the Eugene Mission. Redemption stories always focus on new beginnings.

Loosen the city’s parking rules for food trucks, so we can watch Eugene’s love affair with its food trucks take us to surprising — and delicious — places. What creativity is cooking in Eugene, if only we took the lid off?


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

→ 1 CommentTags: Arr-Gee published · Civic · Simple · Urban Design · You-gene

Teach Your Parents Well (Fathers Day Reflection)

June 19th, 2016 · No Comments

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My father failed. I gave up trying. And then it happened, thanks to my two sons. With future pluperfection, they defined what will have been. Fathers Day is an opportunity to look forward and back, with only continuity in between. Time is less orderly than we believe. Destiny admits only that we learned too late the consequences of our choices.

Struggles stretch over generations without our knowledge or permission. The sins of the fathers are visited on the children. But it can also work in the opposite direction, and I am the beneficiary. The courage of the sons emboldens the father.

I grew up poor, which is not cause for sympathy. I learned to fear abundance as unnatural, which is. The past decade has taught be to give away much that I inherited.

It’s a long story and I love to tell it, but my father’s best friend once read a column I wrote for this newspaper and wondered if I was my father’s son. (This has happened to me more than once.) Bill Johnson and I have spent many hours together since. My father left the family when I was in grade school and died a few years later, so this recent friendship filled in many blanks for me about my father.

Like so many soldiers from the middle of last century, my father was the first in his family to go to college. He and Bill were roommates. Bill vividly remembers a young man determined to surpass his parents on one ineffable level — class.

Bill told me about my father’s first heartbreak. He traveled to Michigan one Thanksgiving break to meet his girlfriend’s parents. They were steel magnates and insisted their daughter end the romance, because “he’s not one of us.”

My dad’s parents were wage earners. They always had enough, but never plenty. As his career flourished, my father bought diamonds once a year to remind himself that money and wealth don’t always look the same. Class is not an altitude — it’s an attitude.

My father’s foray into a higher class didn’t last. Alcohol and ambition didn’t mix well. Envy is still fear, but in better clothing. His marriage crumbled. We became the neighborhood charity case, a single mom with seven kids. In my ten-year-old mind, upper class was anyone with a second pair of shoes.

So, of course, I wanted to do better for my children. We all do. My sons grew up with more, but that hardly matters. It’s not what you have; it’s what you do with what you’ve got. Here the generational learning truck began beeping in reverse, blaring loudly enough to wake me.

Slowly but surely, my sons have helped me reinvent my world, replacing “good enough” with “couldn’t be better.” They’ve animated a world that is both less acquisitive and more abundant. Class is defined by fear. My boys have less, and now so do I.

I’m still mortified to see anything go to waste. My boys don’t feel the same obligation toward consumables. They don’t shake the shampoo bottles of life for the last drop. They don’t often eat leftovers. In the world they’re creating, there will always be enough.

They’re still coaxing me into the world my father had wanted to provide.

My brother remembers when it happened for him. With an engineer’s precision, he identified exactly when and how he exited the fear-based, zero-sum world we had known as children. “I became a good tipper,” he recalled. For him, it was as simple as that.

Generosity is the tool that builds abundance.

Two years ago, Bill gave me a precious gift. It was a keepsake camera that my father had given him as a wedding gift in 1955. “It was the best that money could buy at the time,” Bill told me. A generous gift to a best friend 60 years ago was passed to me. I bought a camera just like it last summer at a yard sale for five dollars.

My sons will now each have the thing — and the story. Only the story, begun by my father, matters.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Trump is Now the Face of Deregulation

June 17th, 2016 · 1 Comment

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America, Donald Trump is what deregulation looks like. Step by step, over the past four decades, we’ve loosened government’s protective hold on us, and now here we are. We thought everything was becoming cheaper or free, but only because the real costs were being hidden from us.

Trump is the presidential candidate that Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talk-radio entertainers have been begging listeners and goading leaders to provide. Trump traffics in the same simple solutions and dubious conclusions that have made Limbaugh and others into millionaires. It’s worth understanding better how their business model succeeded.

Before 1987, broadcasters were governed by the Fairness Doctrine. In return for access to the public airwaves, radio and television operators were required to provide equal time for opposing political viewpoints. President Reagan vetoed legislation that would have affirmed the public policy enforced by the Federal Communications Commission since 1949.

“This type of content-based regulation by the federal government is, in my judgment, antagonistic to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Reagan said in his veto message. “In any other medium besides broadcasting, such federal policing of the editorial judgment of journalists would be unthinkable.”

Within months, Rush Limbaugh moved from a local radio show in Sacramento to become a national broadcaster out of New York City. Two years later, The New York Times wrote that Limbaugh had “more listeners than any other talk show host.” Freed to broadcast editorial commentary without having to present opposing views, radio station owners lined up to air Limbaugh and those who followed him.

The Rush Limbaugh Show soon had 650 affiliates. Most of those radio stations paid zero dollars for the program, thanks to another deregulation or two. In a brilliant business move that couldn’t have been possible only a few years earlier, Limbaugh’s company allowed radio stations to air the show in return for commercial time that it could then resell to advertisers seeking a nationwide audience.

A 1982 consent decree paved the way for the breakup of the Bell telephone system. The Bell monopoly ended in 1984, making way for dozens of smaller companies competing fiercely for customers, who for the first time had a choice between telephone companies. One especially lucrative aspect of the business was long-distance calls.

Reaching a nationwide audience was suddenly easy. Any company with a toll-free 800 number and “operators standing by” could get an immediate response for their advertising dollars. The final piece of the puzzle was finding businesses who sell what talk radio’s listeners would want to buy.

In a word, ointments. Locally applied for immediate comfort, wonder drugs of various sorts learned that these listeners would make a free call to get a free sample that could then be followed by regular and lucrative reorders.

Those businesses could operate freely only because government again loosened restrictions on who can advertise what and to whom. Direct-to-consumer advertising was frowned upon by the Food and Drug Administration before the 1980s.

The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission took a laissez-faire approach to advertising in the 1980s, allowing advertising of therapeutic agents for “recognized non-serious conditions,” such as arthritis. Vitamin supplements and other similar products were not far behind.

Companies syndicating these programs often gave advertisers a deal they couldn’t refuse: “If we don’t make your phones ring, you won’t have to pay us.”

Let’s review the deal. Radio stations get top-flight entertainment programming with no cash payments by ceding some advertising time to the syndicator. The syndicator signs up advertisers who pay nothing if they don’t get a response. Those ads promise consumers a free trial of their product, if they’ll only call a toll-free number.

It all seems too good to be true because that’s exactly what it is. Everything is free, until the bill comes due. Why buy the snake oil, when you can vote for the snake?

Americans are free to act when they won’t think, buy what they don’t need, evaluate what they can’t understand. They can pay later for an immediate promise of relief. Why should government be allowed to intercede?


Don Kahle ( blogs at

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Facebook Could Build Communities Out of Tragedies

June 17th, 2016 · No Comments

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Facebook has built its business by connecting people across history and geography. High-school sweethearts become reacquainted without regard for the wrinkles of time and face. People with shared interests can find one another with greater ease than ever. Mark Zuckerberg’s vision has been fulfilled on many more levels than most ever thought possible.

But during times of national tragedy, I wish Facebook could reanimate a force and a concept that held communities together for centuries. We’ve gotten comfortable with the knowledge that our most intimate personal details are being stored “in the cloud” and accessed by trusted forces that do things with those details that surpass our understanding.

So it doesn’t seem like a huge leap to ask Facebook to reacquaint us with the power of prayer.

I don’t know about you, but I feel sad when a friend of a friend is part of a national story and all I can do is send positive thoughts to those who are suffering. “Good vibes” lost their allure for me when I was about 12.

It’s a step in the right direction that we can now convey a range of emotions across the Facebook landscape. I never wanted to “like” the news that two old friends were breaking up, but I wanted to acknowledge their “news” in an appropriate way. Sorrow can be such a private affair. Now at least I can send a sad emoticon to my friends who aren’t nearby enough to receive a plate of cookies.

Symbols of support are sticky. They hold us together, even when there’s not much substance in common.

We can all color our Facebook photo to express solidarity to a cause that’s suddenly a cause celebre. That’s something. We can give blood — that’s something more. But neither gives us what we deeply want in those moments of deep sadness.

Sympathy wants to become empathy, but we need a more direct connection to the person or the situation or the cause. Words fail us.

Prayer is expressed in words, but what it expresses is more than words. Addressed to an almighty force that connects everything, we exhibit both deferential humility and determined resolve. Prayer articulates intent. It prepares us for action.

The posture of prayer is readiness. The recipient gets something more than “good vibes.”

If something bad happens to somebody on our block, we can knock on their door and bring them a covered dish. If we read about misfortune in our daily newspaper, there’s often a fund set up at a local bank where we can donate to defray their medical expenses.

The International Red Cross and other organizations make it easy now to give money for earthquake victims and others worldwide who have sudden great need. We can post a flag of solidarity in our window or from our car’s antennae.

What’s missing is some way to express the grief that falls in between — not as near as your block, not as far-flung as the world. Churches have done this well because the social bonds would spread out to other congregations in the same denomination. You might know only 100 faces from weekly services, but friend-of-friend connections would climb quickly into the thousands.

Isn’t that really what Facebook wants to bring back? It’s a revival of a different sort, but a revival nevertheless.

We have Kickstarter when people want to share the risk of some new business venture. How about Kneebender when people want to share a different and more intimate load, but without imposing directly on the burdened?

Would a certain survivor who was hurt at The Pulse in Orlando last weekend feel a different sort of comfort if he or she knew that 14 friends of Martha and 28 friends of Betsy — friends of Florida friends — were rooting for them? Thinking about them? Praying for them? Willing to help them?

A tragedy can be the occasion for old connections to be renewed, but also for new ones to be built. Better friend-of-friend connections will make the world sturdier for everyone.

Facebook wants to make the world better. Start here.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Tall Thoughts About Micro-Aggressions

June 10th, 2016 · 4 Comments

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I endured a micro-aggression this week that gave me some odd hope for all the thin-skinned scholars trolling our campuses. They feel determined to rectify statements and suppositions that, in their minds, are “just wrong.” I don’t find myself sympathizing with their complaints any more than I did before, but I have stumbled on some good that may come from their outsized outrage.

Here’s what happened. I had a houseguest over the weekend who surprised me by laundering the towels her family had used before they left. I found them folded neatly on top of the dryer. I might have believed she had never used them at all, except I fold my towels in thirds to better fit the cubbies where I keep them.

I went to refold the towels only to discover — trigger alert! — she had folded the bath towels first in half to make the towels nearly square. I have always and forever folded towels first lengthwise. Once the shape resembles a thick scarf, I fold it twice along that longer axis, first in half, then in thirds. It’s automatic.

The difference between the two methods is unimportant — literally, of no consequence. Nothing I expect of a towel is compromised by my houseguest’s folding pattern. So why did it “feel wrong” to me? Why do I fold my towels the same way every time? Why is it not random?

Because we don’t like random. We like order, patterns, sameness. So we invent it wherever we can and much more than we recognize.

With folded towels but also with many other things, I favor “tall.” Growing up, I picked the same shape pumpkin from the U-pick patch every year. My house has been remodeled twice, each time making things taller.

Tall feels good to me. I was a skinny kid growing up, and now I imagine that I absorbed my mother’s friends’ comments: “My, my! Look how tall he’s gotten!” That pleased my mother, and so it pleased me. Tall became good. I refused to wear anything but “slim-cut” pants until I was cut from the high school basketball team.

My brother Bill grew up with a slightly different story. He was only slightly more stout than me. He probably heard something different during those formative years. He chose tennis as his high school sport. His house has a pool, but no upstairs. His pumpkins always looked like vine-ripened tomatoes, sitting beside my Roma-tomato shaped choice.

We never fought over whose pumpkin was bigger, or even better. But each of us would have cried if we were forced to carve a jack-o-lantern from the “wrong” shape.

We navigate the world every day with a thousand unspoken assumptions. There’s no need to speak about them because they don’t matter and we all know it. But still — something “feels right” and something else doesn’t. It really is a feeling. The sameness offers comfort — the world is known and confirmed.

Which hand is filled with shampoo between lather, rinse and repeat? Do you clip your dominant hand’s nails first or last? When you lick an envelope closed, which side does your tongue wet first?

The honest answer to most of these questions is that we don’t know. But it’s almost always the same way, whether we know it or not. Doing it differently won’t “feel right.” So we do know — we just don’t know that we know.

The worst aspect of the campus micro-aggression phenomena is the idea that young people are overly sensitive about the tiny pains — most of us would call them annoyances — they must endure. Once we wake up to how ubiquitous those inconveniences really are, a small dash of empathy is all that’s required to reveal a world teeming with diversity.

Each other person is as sure as we are about what “feels right.” That feeling is shaped for each of us by unique experiences and memories. We’re all busy making meaning in our world, and each of us is doing it differently.

That way, all the pumpkins in the patch find happy buyers.


Don Kahle ( blogs at

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Smart Signals Make Drivers (and Driving) Worse

June 10th, 2016 · 2 Comments

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All eyes in Eugene have been on traffic lately, but at least one Eugene resident thinks we’re looking in the wrong places. Movement matters, but so does stillness. In fact, the choreography of commuting requires both. They cannot be separated.

Albert Einstein once mused that the wonder of the universe is not that stuff exists, but that there’s empty space between the stuff. Hold that thought for the next time you’re waiting at a red light.

Summer road construction projects are well underway across the region. Added to the usual workload are several special projects, making orange traffic cones as common this summer as invasive blackberry shoots.

Lanes are being carved out in west Eugene for the upcoming EmX line. Franklin Boulevard in Glenwood soon will be undergoing a major transformation. Lanes are lost temporarily at the airport to make room for the latest expansion. And, of course, Willamette Street has been restriped under the watchful gaze of citizen urban planners.

In every case, the goal is the same: move as many people as possible, as smoothly as possible, as safely as possible. Bike lanes, sidewalks, roundabouts, bus stops — we all want to get where we’re going with the least frustration possible. But that might be exactly the problem, thinks Bill Klingenberg.

Klingenberg came to Eugene from California a decade ago, retired from construction trades but still actively engaged in how the built environment shapes our lives. He reached out to me after I wrote about one south Eugene neighborhood’s higgledy-piggledy street design.

He recognized, along with many others, that the purpose of the area’s paved apostrophes was to slow the drivers. But he attributes modern drivers’ need for speed to a surprising culprit. He blames trigger-operated traffic signals. Or “traffic light Lottos,” as he fondly calls them.

A construction bid on a Sacramento intersection with these so-called smart signals opened his eyes. He pays attention when streets are sliced up so that sensors can be embedded in the pavement. He notices when lights turn red when they shouldn’t.

Before traffic lights got smart with microprocessing chips and in-pavement sensors, the things just worked. Red, green, yellow, red. Traffic engineers would set the duration for each and be done. But every once in a while during the day, and frequently late at night, drivers would find themselves sitting at a red light with no other cars in sight.

If there’s one thing we can’t stand, it’s being stopped for no good reason. Alone with our thoughts for those twenty seconds, all we can think about is where we might lodge our complaint to “fix” this “problem.”

And so, smart signals were born. But smart signals aren’t really so smart, it turns out.

The television show “Mythbusters” recently measured the efficiency of traffic lights, stop signs, and traffic circles. They deemed stops signs approximately 40 percent more efficient than traffic lights. Traffic circles moved traffic slightly better than stop signs.

Trouble is, to achieve those greater efficiencies, drivers must cooperate with one another. That may be too much to ask.

“We have taught people to drive badly, on purpose and at great expense,” Klingenberg wrote to me. “Long lines of cars idling, then jack rabbit starts with hard acceleration, only to decelerate sharply, and then sit at idle.” He lamented “the degradation of driving etiquette.”

“If cars flowed at an even pace,” he continued, “all drivers would cruise along, knowing what was coming and what was expected of them. There would not be that anxiety to speed up at the first opportunity, as they’d know it was pointless.”

Is there any road back to posting signs that say “Signals Timed for 28 MPH”? City planners told me, “probably not.” The closest thing to progress they could point out was the blinking yellow left turn arrows that are showing up around town.

That doesn’t address the synchronized signal issue, but it could rekindle some of the driver discretion that we lost when protected left turn arrows were added. With any luck, drivers may one day be ready (again) to negotiate four-way stop signs.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

→ 2 CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Civic · Deep · Psycho · Urban Design · You-gene

Eugene’s Diversity Shines at Yard Sales

June 3rd, 2016 · No Comments

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In Eugene, we love diversity more than we experience it. So when we encounter any spectrum of human identity or endeavor that’s wider than the norm, it’s worth noting. As we glide toward our spectacularly non-diverse summer weather, a curbside activity emerges that shows Eugene at its diversest.

A broad spectrum of yard sales fill our weekends with hunting plans and our telephone poles with arrowed signs.

Not every community in America still has yard sales. Some municipalities have banned them outright. Other towns cluster their residences onto busy roads with no space for a sale or sprawling homes served by long gravel driveways. Traffic in those places is too much or too little, but most of Eugene is just right.

Our neighborhoods tend to roll into one another, making it fun and surprising to wend from one sale to another, then another — often without having to return to any major thoroughfare to replenish with more directional signs.

People come here with big ideals and sometimes almost nothing else. They show up with little more than the shirts on their back, needing one of everything. Others are living on the edge. A yard sale will help them make this month’s rent, or pay back that anxious uncle who’s called three times this week.

Households face their overflow after an aggressive spring cleaning. Every Saturday people are reclaiming a garage, combining or dividing households, just shaking up their stuff status quo. “I’m tired of it. You take it.” The mundane mercantile forms the bulwark of every yard sale population.

Abundance does not guarantee diversity. Here’s where we offer more than most. People host or visit yard sales for a variety of reasons. Those motivations are the root of our diversity. Eugene’s yard sales reach into the far corners of human concerns. We tell stories with our stuff that don’t get told in most other places.

Many of these personal stories revolve around another word we love to use: “bliss.”

People follow their bliss to Eugene. Anything that reminds them of that bliss may strike their fancy. We have plenty of artists and even more would-be artists. They want things they can make into other things. You’re selling hubcaps, but they’re buying beady eyes in an ominous mural that hasn’t been painted yet.

Bliss sometimes pulls people away from Eugene too. The Bliss Train has two tracks and some people buy express tickets. They see themselves as John Bunyan’s pilgrim, about to make progress — just as soon as they lighten their load.

“Everything Must Go” sometimes means exactly that. Most of these sales don’t bother with price tags, because everything is negotiable. The heavier it is, the lighter the price. Pocket change matters less when the point is to empty your pockets.

Whether it’s college graduation, acceptance into the Peace Corps, pursuing a faraway love, or buying a live-aboard, Eugene embraces new beginnings. Your neighbors here may not tell you to hedge your bet, or to curb your enthusiasm. You’re more likely to hear that you can do it — “you’ve got this!” — and how much for these three house plants and this half-empty bottle of turmeric?

Some of us “Must Go” — but others among us “Already Went.”

Eugene lures plenty of active retirees, busily determined not to think of what comes after retirement. They collect their favorite things, pursuing their hobbies with full-time abandon. Until one day when it all disappears — the pursuit, but not the stuff.

Away it goes, or will go, some Saturday soon.

It may be a professionally managed Estate Sale, with everything meticulously tagged. Some of these sales feel like Hiron’s, only with more carefully managed inventory.

Other end-of-life sales feel deeply personal. Each room is preserved to portray the next-of-kin’s grief, as if a Dickens widow lived three doors down. Their ashes will be spread in the river they loved best, but those rods and reels will be cast into neighborhood garages.

This way the love can continue, under another name. The bliss sometimes stays right here, overstuffing a new host, until their time comes.


Don Kahle ( blogs at

→ No CommentsTags: arr-gee thumbnails · deekay · Deep · Urban Design · You-gene

Republican Could Repel Trump With (gasp!) Laws

June 3rd, 2016 · 2 Comments

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If Rep. Paul Ryan and his Capitol Hill colleagues really wanted to stop Donald Trump from becoming the Republican nominee for president this fall, they could make quick work of it. They could pass some laws that only Donald Trump won’t like.

Start with Sen. Ron Wyden’s proposed legislation that would require every presidential candidate to release their most recent three years of tax returns in order to gain access to the ballot. The bill could fit on a single page. No tax returns; no candidacy.

You can’t buy a house in America without disclosing your financial history. Why should the White House be any different?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has dismissed Wyden’s proposal as a political prank aimed to embarrass one candidate, overlooking that Bernie Sanders has released only partial returns and nothing for 2015. But McConnell’s reaction raises a very real and not at all prankish question: “Would Republican lawmakers prefer Trump as their candidate or not?” If their public hand-wringing about their presumed candidate is just for show, then fine. Do nothing while pretending you wish things could be different. But don’t expect everyone else to forget that you still have the power and authority — if no longer the habit — to make laws.

Democrats have a role here too. Wyden notwithstanding, there’s no reason not to recommend laws that could save the Republican party from itself. The next vain populist billionaire could come from any point on the political spectrum.

If Democratic lawmakers are certain that Trump’s candidacy will lead to landslide victories for their side, well, they’d better be absolutely certain. Because a Trump success, or even some varieties of a Trump failure, could result in much more being lost than the jobs they currently hold but are refusing to do.

Wyden’s foray points in the right direction. Laws can and should be written and passed to make Trump feel very unwelcome. Releasing recent tax returns is only a good start.

Most American presidents have been careful to separate their personal financial decisions from the decisions they make for the good of the country. This is typically done with a so-called blind trust, but Trump has made no promises that he’ll use the tool. He expects his children will run his companies while he’s otherwise engaged. That arrangement would be long on trust, but short on blind. No son or daughter of a sitting president should be negotiating for billions of foreign investment dollars while their father sends a fleet of warships nearby for a seemingly random military exercise.

We’ve never had a business tycoon with financial interests as far flung as Trump’s, so we’ve never needed legislation to codify that separates personal and national interests. Now would be a good time to define exactly how blind a president’s blind trust should be.

Trump won’t like that he won’t be allowed even to know the names of those running his companies, but that’s fine. If Ryan and Rep. Nancy Pelosi find common cause and squeamish senators cooperate to pass a few laws quickly, Trump still will have time to tell Republicans in Cleveland, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Here’s another law that might make more candidates uncomfortable, but especially self-funding billionaires. Our former presidents receive certain benefits for the rest of their lives. Attaching a few strings to those benefits wouldn’t be inappropriate.

We can’t ask former presidents live on the pension we provide. After all, $203,700 per year just doesn’t go as far as it used to. They’ll write memoirs and give speeches.

The American people are covering those pension payments, but also the expenses of Secret Service protection until they die, and a state funeral after that. So why not pass a law requiring every beneficiary of Secret Service protection to release their annual tax returns for as long as they receive this public subsidy?

That’s not too much to ask, is it? Except we should do more than ask, and we should do it before it’s too late. Lawmakers should pass a few laws immediately, and let Trump decide for himself how badly he wants to be president.


Don Kahle ( blogs at

→ 2 CommentsTags: arr-gee thumbnails · DC · Deep · Pure Pol · Simple

Experiments Rarely Reset Expectations

June 3rd, 2016 · 1 Comment

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One year from now, we will have learned what we already know.

Over the next twelve months, south Eugene commuters and merchants will live an experimental life. A five-block stretch of Willamette Street has been restriped this week to simulate what the road may look like when it’s permanently rebuilt in 2018.

For at least the next year, four lanes of traffic will be reduced to two, making room for a left-turn center lane, bike lanes on both sides, and eventually, more generous sidewalks.

Supporters of the design envision a “complete street” that feels safe and welcoming to multiple modes of transportation. Detractors fear that fewer car lanes will mean longer travel times, fewer customers for shopkeepers, and another sore thumb from the misdirected hammer of government innovation.

Much will happen before it’s all said and done. More is usually said than done, which is why I believe the city is smart to invest $150,000 to run this year-long trial. Predictive modeling indicates the new street configuration will best match Eugene City Council’s stated goals for road safety, energy use, and urban planning. But no model can consider the infinitude of variables of people living their lives.

The trial makes us — our habits, our expectations, our experiences — part of the experiment. I only wish those expectations could be more clearly stated at the outset, regardless of whether the goal is to persuade citizens that this design will or won’t work.

Salespeople call this technique “moving past the sale.” On a car lot, it sounds like this: “If I can get you that price, would you like this baby in silver or blue?” Capturing what will be accepted is easiest before the time comes to do the accepting. Expectations are framed now, and the experiences for the next year will naturally fill that frame.

For example, bicyclists promise to frequent merchants more to show their support. How many bicyclists will do this, and their support will be measured how? Traffic engineers believe some slowing of traffic is desirable, but how slow would be too slow?

Some businesses fear that reduced traffic counts will lead to fewer sales. Slower and single-file traffic may have the opposite effect. We can be certain of only one thing. Gross receipts for the next year will not be identical to the last year, because that’s not what happens in the real world.

Here’s what we’ll likely be hearing a year from now.

  • People don’t like diets, even for their roads.
  • Retail sales will have been impacted more by weather and external events than by any street configuration.
  • Bicyclists and pedestrians will be more common on the street. They’ll buy more stuff, but not enough more to satisfy skeptics.
  • Traffic engineers will report that average travel times are only slightly longer, but math professors from Corvallis will have to be called in to explain exactly how “average” was calculated.
  • Police will report more minor collisions, but fewer major ones. Vision Zero road safety advocates will insist that only zeroes will be tolerated.
  • Busses will block traffic flow and driver satisfaction. It will happen only occasionally, but when it does, it will be complete. These complaints will be remembered for longer than anyone considers reasonable, including the complainants. We’re not rational creatures.
  • Except for two weeks in early November when Americans “took to the streets” in an unprecedented display of panic and unity, the road itself will have generated less controversy than all the ideas we had about the road.
  • Adaptability will be strong, even when acceptance is not. Most people will have moved on to other concerns by the time the trial period is halfway finished.
  • Both sides of the controversy will insist that the test was unfair and that their best/worst expectations were confirmed.

If this is an issue you care about, scribble down the results you expect. Be as concrete as possible. Stick that folded note in the bottom of your underwear drawer, to be forgotten until mid-2017. But first, do one more thing. Pledge to your future self a willingness to be surprised.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Oregon Could Revive Localism With IP 28

May 27th, 2016 · 1 Comment

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Chances are very good Oregonians will be voting in November whether to assess a gross receipts tax on businesses with sales that exceed $25 million annually. Once all the shouting begins, the subtleties of history will be lost in the background noise. So let’s chat today about business efficiencies, sun-ripened tomatoes, and a pamphlet written in 1837.

Rowland Hill argued in an 1837 tract that guaranteed delivery of any letter between two points for the same prepaid price would increase its popularity. He envisioned a world made smaller and a society joined tighter. He won the argument and England instituted the Penny Post in 1840.

Single price postage didn’t appear in America until after the railroads reached the west coast. Before 1863, letters traveling less than 300 miles could be sent for half price. But since then, we’ve lived in Hill’s world where distance doesn’t matter.

What does this piece of arcane history have to do with Oregon’s proposed business tax? Well, nothing really — at least not directly. That’s why we can think about it only before the din of rhetoric drowns out every tangental detail.

Our “any distance for a single price” mentality made the world feel smaller and more accessible. We can all agree that we’ve now accomplished that. If anything, we may have done it too well.

The United States Postal Service wants to centralize its mail-sorting operation in Portland, trucking every letter sent from Eugene 100 miles north. A letter you write will take two or three days to reach your neighbor, instead of one. But hey — it’s more efficient.

Our produce aisles have zucchini from Morocco, limes from Brazil, and maple syrup from Canada — year round. Amazon will bring almost anything you can imagine to your door in two days. Desktop email replaced mailed letters, until instant messages began appearing on the phones in our pockets.

The world has gotten very small, indeed. Distance doesn’t matter — until it does.

Local companies have gained global access, but also global competition. Whittier Wood Furniture can be sold nationwide, giving good jobs to local people working with wood and wood products that grew in the ground beneath our feet.

But local farmers cannot compete with grocery store prices for sun-ripened tomatoes, even when supply levels slide from abundance to onslaught. Never mind the better taste, or the local roots — the “efficiencies” of factory farming and our sesquicentennial habit of ignoring distance leave us with cheap, tasteless tomatoes. We feed our table-mates but not our neighbors.

That’s where Oregon’s Initiative Petition 28 may represent a tide we can turn. Economic analyses have speculated that its high floor of $25 million in Oregon sales will exempt all but about a thousand corporations from paying the tax. Half of the $3 billion in projected state revenues will come from just 50 mega-firms.

Yes, some prices will be increased to compensate, and some jobs will be automated or eliminated to compensate for lost profits. But when it comes to tomatoes, we’ll all be better off if the wares offered at our farmers’ markets can be priced more competitively.

Legislators say they’ll consider a pre-emptive move that will put in place something smaller than what IP28 has proposed. I don’t believe they will, because Democrats will benefit greatly from having a measure that Bernie Sanders would love on the November ballot. That will get more liberals to vote.

I hope what legislators are really working on is a bill that binds them to devote a third of the revenue from IP 28, if it passes, to local business development initiatives.

IP 28 can revive localism, which is what we’ve lost in Hill’s mechanized, centralized, efficient-but-tasteless world. Will Apple charge a few dollars more for iPads sold in Oregon, to compensate for the tax? Probably not, but boy, if they did, what a great deal that would be for our state.

Imagine every national Apple promotion that mentions price having to add, “except in Oregon.” I’d pay extra for license plates that included those three words as our new state slogan — wouldn’t you?


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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